Ruth Bass | In very little time, 2019's resolutions will vanish in the ether


RICHMOND — It's that time of year again, the January thing when we resolutely resolve and, within days or weeks or months, discover that our good intentions have silently dissolved. Still, it's a new calendar on the wall, with things to remember or cross out and replace.

Janus, the month's namesake, looked both forward and back, not a bad idea in terms of resolutions (which presumably are going to make things better this year than last). We ordinary mortals can't do much about the stock market shakiness in the old year, nor prevent the storm surges that wreaked havoc in Florida and North Carolina. It's also hard to look on the serious damage done to the environment in 2018 as the powers in Washington eased or wiped out regulations that protected water and air, two things each of us depends on.

Building a windmill in the back yard and putting the mayonnaise jar in a recycle bin won't make up for the damage quietly done by Cabinet members Pruitt and Zinke, but it's good to remember that giant oaks started out as shiny little nuts wearing adorable hats. So, we think about green energy, and jars don't go in the trash.

The planet isn't going to evaporate with climate change. But humans might, so I've tried to gather a kind of new year To-Do list for myself, based on the idea that little things mean a lot. Here it is:

Reach for a sweater instead of the thermostat.

Turn off lights when leaving a room, and use low-energy bulbs.

When baking potatoes, make a meatloaf and roasted vegetables to use the heat to the max. When dinner's ready, leave the oven door ajar to take advantage of the hot air.

Remember to take bags to the store, and buy less beef there.

Say no thanks to a clerk who offers a paper bag for a tiny purchase.

Don't discard plastic bags - use them for dog poop or to line wastebaskets.

Pack the dishwasher to the gunwales.

Get serious about putting peelings, rotten apples and egg shells in the compost.

Don't vacuum every day. (Now that's one that won't dissolve, ever.)

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No paper plates.

Close the refrigerator door. (A constant command in my childhood - was that because the parents grew up with ice boxes?)

Mow the lawn less often, shrink it whenever possible. Slightly longer grass protects the good bugs and gives bunnies clover blooms for breakfast.

Buy a water bottle, not bottled water.

Combine errands on trips to town. Less gas, less pollution.

Take soda and beer bottles back, get the nickel, make the recycling bin lighter and buy a bottle of wine with the proceeds. Byproduct: Strangers don't get to keep your deposit.

Hang out the washing more often, and revel in the fresh-air aroma of the sheets.

Encourage grandchildren to shower shorter.

When the TV is talking to an empty room, turn it off.

Wash the lettuce in a bowl, then use the water on houseplants or hanging baskets. The story that goes with this routine features a brother-in-law from Florida who wondered if something in the lettuce was good for the plants. Just saving water, he was told. Ah, he answered, we have no water problem in Florida. Hmm. In California, my niece has a bucket under the shower. When it's full, she waters her pomegranate trees.

Unplug the toaster and coffee pot when not in use, especially if going away.

All of these are baby steps. They can't make up for lowering standards for car emissions or the poisonous stuff that comes from burning coal. They can't counteract the reduction in standards for clean water, which must make the beleaguered people in Flint, Mich., even less happy. They can't save our national woodlands from drilling, nor the caribou from pipelines. But they make a statement, and if we've learned nothing else in 2018, we have learned that it takes a chorus of voices and united action to make things happen.

Will it be a day, a week or a month before dissolution begins?

Ruth Bass is a former Sunday editor of The Eagle. Her website is


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